A number of years ago, the Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle roamed the vast and dense forests of the Philippine Islands freely; then, their population was numerous. When the first specimen was documented in 1896 by the British naturalist and explorer John Whitehead, the Philippines was very different. The eagles’ natural habitats were practically untouched. The only human contact the forests had was with the indigenous natives of the islands. These natives didn’t dare cut down large areas of forest for farming; instead they lived off the forests. They depended on it, much like the Philippine Eagle.
Standing a metre tall, the Philippine Eagle was the top of the food chain, preying on other animals, including monkeys (where the name “Monkey-eating Eagle” was derived from). Their short broad wings and squared-off tail made them well-adapted to life in. tropical forests. With their sharp blue eyes, large curved beak, and crown of feathers, these birds have a very stately appearance while looking a bit comedic.
So why have these majestic birds’ population dropped to under 200 birds in recent years?
The existence of raptors everywhere is being threatened by a many different causes, but unlike numerous other birds of prey, the Philippine Eagle has become a prized trophy for hunters. Many of these birds have been killed for sport. With the introduction of firearms, the number of wild Philippine Eagles rapidly decreased. Even with laws protecting the animals, many of the birds continue to be poached illegally in exchange for large sums of money offered by “important” people.
As industrialization rapidly took hold of the nation, much of the natural habitats of the eagles were destroyed for the sake of progress. Much land was taken up for mass farming, trees were destroyed for paper and wood, fires were set to trees to clear the land for buildings. The wild areas of the islands were rapidly pushed back allowing less and less space for the raptors. As large predators, these eagles need much space to hunt and nest. With around 80% of the Philippine’s natural rain forests destroyed, the Monkey-eating Eagles have no space to nest. Destruction of their natural environment has also greatly reduced the number of prey available to the birds, causing many of the birds to die from starvation.
Today, there are continuing efforts to secure safe havens for the birds while captive-breeding programs are encouraging the repopulation of Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagles. Though the country will never be the same and the eagle population may never recover, conservationists are working to prevent the dawning extinction of this beautiful bird. I pray they do.
Like the Philippine Monkey-eating Eagle, many other animals across the globe have been greatly affected by human actions. Too many animals become endangered and extinct because of our destruction of nature. We cannot allow these animals to suffer for our selfishness and greed. How many animals need to die before we wake up and realise we need to change our ways? We are stewards of this world. Meaning, we live in this world, but it is not ours to destroy. We need to protect it, revive it, and save it for future generations.